Can you name one Belgian biscuit company?
And now you are going to say Lotus Biscoff.
Yes, that one is Belgian as well.
But that is not what this post is about.
If you ask us, Jules Destrooper makes the best Belgian biscuits in this country.
And the world.
Who knew that a tiny little bakery opening its doors in a tiny little Belgian village over 130 years ago would become this popular?
In 1885 the 29 year old Jules Destrooper was ambitious enough to open a shop in Lo, a small town which is not far from Ypres and Bruges.
He was brave and ambitious indeed, because tiny Lo at that time already had 5 baker shops.
So what was it that made Jules Destrooper’s bakery stand out and become famous until this day?
He would also sell oversees goods from colonies in Africa and Asia, something the other didn’t do.
Smart move, Jules.
You could buy things like coffee, tobacco, chocolate and spices.
And that is exactly how Jules Destrooper quickly made a name for himself.
Colonial spices, can you name a few?
Think of exotic spices that are mainstream now but were precious finds in the late 1800’s.
Cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, vanilla.
Who knows perhaps Jules Destrooper even had cardamom, saffron and Szechuan pepper on his shelves?
That really made you stand out then.
Customers would soon find their way to his bakery and shop.
As a gift and a way of saying thanks Jules Destrooper started to bake a special kind of biscuit. Something no one had ever heard of, let alone tasted before here in Belgium.
Wafer thin spiced biscuits by the name of almond thins.
And people went crazy for them.
So Jules Destrooper decided to start baking more of them and sell his spiced biscuits in the baker shop from then on.
Not only the spices, also the almonds he used for his almond thins must have come from somewhere far away at that time.
His priced almond thins became so popular that they even received La Médaille d’Or in 1911, an exclusive French food award.
Soon after creating his almond thins Jules came up with another biscuit, a crunchy thin waffle he called a ‘lukke’.
It was named after the traditional biscuits that women in West Flanders would bake around new year to give to family and friends as a way of wishing them good luck and prosperity.
‘Geluk’ is luck in Flemish, ‘lukken’ means that something works out well.
We still call it a ‘lukke’ by the way.
Lots of bakeries have copied these butter crisps, their shape and flavor over the years. However a real butter crisp will have the initials JD clearly visible in the middle of it.
In 1923 these biscuits also win another gold medal award in Brussels.
Founder Jules Destrooper dies in 1934.
The Jules Destrooper bakery has a hard time surviving one war, let alone a second war.
Once Belgium is starting to recover again, baking goods and other essential ingredients are soon available again.
Sugar, flour, eggs and butter were scarce and rationed for a long time and unfortunately those are the main ingredients for Destrooper’s biscuits.
But the war is over and soon the JD bakery is back in full swing.
Jules Destrooper junior is just as ambitious as his father and successfully starts exporting the JD biscuits to America around 1949.
After that the Jules Destrooper bakery is on a high.
Business is very good for decades.
New biscuits are being created such as the Parisian butter waffles and chocolatey almond florentines.
In fact the demand for their biscuits increases so much that a second JD bakery is started up in 1986 by Jules Destrooper’s grandsons in the nearby city of Ypres to manufacture them.
The Jules Destrooper biscuits also find their way to the Belgian royal palace. In 1999 the bakery becomes an official royal supplier, another exclusive title that many bakeries would love to have.
And JD has kept that title ever since.
Jules Destrooper nowadays
The Jules Destrooper company was sold in 2015 after the grandsons had a falling out.
The new owner, the Vandermarliere family however didn’t change a thing.
They kept baking the Jules Destrooper biscuits following the original family recipes. And also created new biscuits and sweet treats.
There are 17 different Jules Destrooper biscuits now, and a JD biscoff spread for sandwiches.
The bakery in Lo was closed in 2019, moving the entire production now to the bakery in Ypres.
The Jules Destrooper visitor centre in Lo contains a museum about the bakery’s history and is open for groups or individual visitors. There is also a shop and a biscuit tasting opportunity.
So if you are in the vicinity of Ypres and you need a break from the Flanders Fields war memorials and museums, we highly recommend the JD visitor centre.
You can book tickets in advance.
And for the beer lovers, the visitor centre is only a 20 minute drive from another famous Belgian export product: the West-Vleteren abbey and brewery.
You can’t visit the abbey but you can drink a West-Vleteren beer, have a bite to eat and buy some extra bottles of West-Vleteren beer in the café opposite the abbey called In de Vrede.
The Jules Destrooper biscuits are being shipped all over the world.
You will most probably find them where you live. Its classic blue and white Jules Destrooper logo and package design is easy to spot.
The biscuits are sold in cardboard boxes but also in metal tins decorated with colorful hints to Belgian icons such as painter René Magritte or the famous béguinage and streets of Bruges.
The biscuits are also a popular items at duty free airport shops. We love to take JD biscuits with us if we visit friends abroad. The metal tins are not only strong and perfect to keep the biscuits from breaking.
The tins are also reusable and a collector’s item.
JD Visitor Centre
How about you?
Are you familiar with the JD biscuits?
Have you ever tasted then before?
Tell us and leave a comment below.
We’d love to hear from!